There’s a great quote from Professor Jeff Richards, and it goes like this: ‘Creative without strategy is called art, creative with strategy is called advertising’.
For us ad men/women we live by this mantra. We craft our ideas and spending hours and hours getting that layout perfect or that copy or script to a point of excellence. Well, that’s what it used to be like, anyhow.
Craft is what makes ads remarkable, craft is what we see on display every award season, craft it’s what makes advertising messages worth watching.
It’s the difference between something average and something great. We’ve all seen great ideas crafted really badly and bad ideas crafted well and it makes a huge difference.
The thing is that today we have this bloody thing called social media where there’s a constant need to produce endless amounts of ‘stuff' or what we like to call the ‘C word’, and what others like to call ‘Content’. But whatever the medium great ads are fewer and further between these days, because they cost money and time, and most of all they need to be created by minds who are obsessed with creating big ideas that actually work.
And that ain’t the case with most content.
CONTENT - IT'S JUST BLOODY ADVERTISING UNDER ANOTHER NAME
When you break it down ‘content’ is just advertising ... you can call it whatever you like but it’s still bloody advertising. And as more and more clients are now doing their own advertising - and calling it ‘content’ - the question really has to be asked, what’s the value of an idea any more? And then, close on the heels of that question, does craft even exist anymore?
At MOP we believe the answer to the C word is simple: all brands, no matter how big or small, need (and should value) an outside view and they need it for their content flow as much as anything else. (And frankly, if the wilder predictions for the influence of social media are anything like true - we doubt it, but if they are - then they especially need those external eyes on their social media.)
There are exceptions, always, but generally brands fundamentally need an outside view. It’s called perspective. Fresh eyes. And eyes that aren’t beholden to some internal stakeholder for their next promotion up the corporate ladder, too.
Over the years we’ve all seen a few brands take all their marketing/advertising in-house and in most cases it has failed. (*Cough*, Pepsi, anyone?)
None of this is to say that brands shouldn’t have in-house capacity - we think it’s important that they do in many cases - but for messages that fundamentally affect the view of their brand they need a relationship with an agency where they can discuss their brand and craft their ideas into something truly worth watching, reading or listening to.
DOING SOMETHING REALLY REALLY WELL
There’s a lot to say about doing one thing really, really well - putting heaps of your money into something people actually might enjoy watching, listening to or looking at - and then getting as many eyeballs on it as possible. (Super Bowl ads anyone?). And if you think your workaday graphic artists in their cubicle are ever going to offer you something that will change the minds of millions of people, then frankly you’re deluding yourself. Because it’s not what they do, and it’s not what they should be asked to do.
Worse, such people often aren’t across the top level concerns for the brand, which is why they can produce social content that is worse than boring - it heads off on a tangent from core brand values, or even transgresses them.
And if our weakest link is how our brand will be perceived, then how do we effectively police a quick online ad or Facebook post when the Marketing Director is off making a million dollar commercial, or the MD is busy preparing his notes for the next Board meeting?
But hey - let’s not worry about full blown PR disasters, even though they occur regularly. Let’s just worry about every day.
THE HUNT FOR REMARKABLE
If brands are increasingly doing their own advertising then it’s highly likely that nothing remarkable will be created and their advertising will very likely be... well… ‘meh’, frankly. And ‘Meh’ advertising means ‘Meh’ brands. And there’s one dominant reason for this.
Really good creative people just don’t want to work direct for clients: they want to work for creative consultancies where they are understood and nurtured - and where the environment is conducive to creativity. Ad agencies are frequently raucous, exciting, argumentative, music-filled, left-of-field places. Clients' offices generally aren’t.
People need to refocus.
The only reason you advertise is so that you can stand out, but if brands don’t value an idea - and the craft to make it shine and scintillate - then they won’t stand out, and we’re all doomed and there’s no rainbows, sunshine or unicorns for anyone, and especially for the clients that killed them. Or perhaps we should say, the pettyfogging bean counters who made the client make a dumb decision to create all their content in house, with no external input, and all to save a few shekels.
This dreadful trend comes from a habit of looking at the bottom line not the top line, and it’s time it was called out. Creative agencies can pour unexpected millions onto your top line, for a small cost to your bottom line. Spend all your time trying to save a few dollars by taking your all-important creative work in house, and you’ll miss that opportunity.
We hate the idea of saying of anything being ‘dead’, TV is ‘dead’, digital is ‘dead’ but when it comes to ‘craft’ we have this strange feeling that it is, at least, dying. Or at least, it is not appreciated like it used to be. Think of a brilliant “theatre of the mind” radio ad, for example. How many of those are on air nowadays? Precious few.
So the question at hand is actually the whole state of Advertising, where we’re at and where we're going. Yes, there’s tech this and data that, but let’s be real here: our industry makes ads - that’s what we do - and what platform they sit on isn’t an idea, its just a delivery mechanism.
A MEDIUM IS NOT AN IDEA
There’s no such thing as digital advertising or even digital strategy, there’s just good advertising and bad advertising. Whether it’s VR, AR or whatever the next trendy buzz word is, it’s still advertising. These are not ideas in themselves, these are platforms for ideas. There’s a big difference, and crafting these ideas needs time, money and top creative talent to make them great.
Wanna argue? Fine, then just tell me the last Facebook ad that had you running to the phone or coffee shop to rave about how good it was, how it changed your mind about a brand or really made you feel something.
We don’t want to sound like advertising wankers here but we care about this shit. We see advertising as entertainment - naive and hopeful, yeah yeah, we know - but if we don’t entertain then we lose and there’s just no point. We interrupt people's lives with our clients’ messages, so if we’re going to do that then we may as well entertain them as well. And in order to do that we need to craft that idea - craft it, work it, again and again - until it is entertaining enough to get their attention.
Craft is what makes things great, and before this trend goes much further we all need to stop and educate clients on how to make things great. And nine times out of ten, that isn’t going to be “Do It Yourself."